Autonomous Surveillance Towers: New Technology on Front Lines of Border Crisis



Dealing with a self-inflicted border crisis, the Biden administration is now focusing on using artificial intelligence, radar, and other forms of modern technology to curb the flow of illegal immigration.

High-tech watch poles known as Autonomous Surveillance Towers (ASTs) can detect movement along the Southwest border and alert agents in real-time, allowing them to patrol the border more effectively. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to have 200 ASTs, which operate 24 hours a day, put up by the end of Fiscal Year 2022. That’s all very nice, but ultimately useless without physical barriers and adequate manpower to prevent people and vehicles from successfully entering the United States.

According to CBP, “the AST scans the environment with radar to detect movement, orients a camera to the location of the movement detected by the radar, and analyzes the imagery using algorithms to autonomously identify items of interest, such as people or vehicles. Border Patrol agents are then alerted to this event and have the opportunity to make the final determination on what the item is and if it poses a threat.”

Part of its appeal is that ASTs utilize interconnected cameras, meaning when a suspect moves out of a tower’s radius, it is handed off to the next closest tower. They can also cover an area around three miles in diameter and are transportable, allowing CBP to relocate these structures to high-trafficked areas.

However, new technology like ASTs is meant to complement physical barriers and the work of Border Patrol agents rather than replace these necessary forms of security. Since President Biden stopped construction of the border wall, limited CBP’s ability to carry out necessary job functions, and rolled back a plethora of other Trump-era immigration measures, border encounters have reached record levels. The lack of personnel along the 1,954-mile Southwest border is particularly concerning as the success of ASTs is dependent on having agents available to respond to illegal activity detected by this groundbreaking technology.

During the Trump administration, those advocating against a border wall used a virtual wall (i.e., new technology like ASTs) as justification for why we don’t need a border barrier. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as a border wall has been proven to reduce the flow of illegal border crossings significantly. Without an effective border barrier that slows or stops illegal entry attempts, and available personnel, empowered to do their jobs to apprehend migrants when detected, this technology is utterly useless.

While the use of AST’s can be a helpful tool in securing our borders, without the necessary compliments, it simply creates an expensive illusion of border security without any results to show for it.

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